April 2019 | Sharon Webb
ONLY SIX weeks into his job, Tasmania’s Catholic Archdiocese has moved to mend a rift in the Meander Valley parish. According to some parishioners, Nicholas Rynne has already sacked the local board of the Westbury and Deloraine congregations and decreed that mass will be in Latin at Westbury.
One lifetime Catholic said, “People’s attitude is that he has taken our church and parish from us,” describing how Father Rynne had replaced the board with people who support his traditionalist views. The parishioner said congregations halved to about 30 people after the dispute. Two parish chairs and two sacristans (who prepare the church for mass) have also left. In late March, the archdiocese sent retired Melbourne bishop Peter Elliott to attempt to reconcile the antagonists.
Staying five days, appointments with him were booked out by distressed parishioners, well before he arrived. A spokesperson for the Hobart Archdiocese said Archbishop Julian Porteus was “aware of tension within the parish” since Father Rynne’s appointment. “Archbishop Porteous has instigated a process to clarify the situation. His primary responsibility in this situation is to ensure the pastoral care of all concerned in the Meander Valley Parish.” Father Rynne, aged 38, said he had been instructed by the archdiocese not to make media comment. Preferring to wear the very traditional soutane or cassock, Father Rynne has worked in several Sydney parishes and is now seconded to Meander Valley for a year.
One parishioner said that of 62 people attended a meeting on 3rd March to discuss the conflict, only one supported the changes. A second meeting on 17th March attracted 40 people at short notice. “The new priest is an ultra-conservative and most of the parish does not want to follow his line,” another parishioner said. “There is a lot of unrest; people say their health is being impacted by his changes. “For 50 years we were encouraged to participate in our parish but the laity is irrelevant in the church he is trying to impose on us.
And he is supported by Archbishop Julian Porteus.” Another parishioner branded Father Rynne’s actions divisive: “We seem to have gone back a few generations. The well-being of the community is at risk and it’s sad to see how upset everyone is.” Father Rynne was ordained a deacon in St Peter’s Basilica in Rome in 2012. He served at Pope Francis’ first Pontifical Mass in March 2013, the year he was ordained a priest in front of Cardinal George Pell at St Mary’s Cathedral. Using the 1570 Latin version, he celebrated his first mass that same afternoon.